Breckenridge's Tommy Gogolen is all in for this weekend's U.S. Telemark National Championships in Steamboat.
As of Monday, he was expecting a game-time decision, worried a knock on his left knee may have caused injury. But physicians at the Steadman Clinic in Vail assured the athlete he would be good to go for Friday's classic races, which then move into a sprint classic on Saturday and the national championships debut of the sprint parallel Sunday.
Turns out, the injury is just a big bone bruise, and Gogolen will take it for what it is, turning his nationals appearance into a training opportunity - though he still says it would be nice to podium.
"The two knees work together," Gogolen said. "If one's not strong ... I just wanted to make sure I wasn't putting myself at any more risk."
Gogolen admitted he's not in the best shape, following a bout with sickness.
"I might not be the fittest right now, but it's a great opportunity to get some more training. World Championships are in a couple of weeks, on the third week of March in Spain. That's the goal, and this will help. I'm fired up, I'm ready for this week. Any time I can get competitive skiing in against teammates, that's good," Gogolen said.
After knee surgery two years in a row, Gogolen has made another return to racing and began his season in January at the World Cup races in Slovenia and Austria. Gogolen claimed a podium spot in previous nationals, but this year, competition will be fierce.
"We have a tough field this year," he said. "It's maybe the toughest I've seen from U.S. competitors."
Jeffrey Gay, a resident of Steamboat and University of Colorado-Boulder student, won two local races at Vail and Sunlight recently and just returned home from the Junior World Championships in Chamonix, France. The 2012 national champion, Charlie Dresen of Steamboat, and the 2011 national champion, Cory Snyder of New Hampshire, will also be contending for the top spot.
Racers from Colorado, Montana, Utah, New England and beyond will be in the ranks of competitors this weekend.
Go out and ski fast. Expectations aren't high, though landing a podium is on his radar.
Races will be held at Howelsen Hill and Mount Werner at Steamboat Ski Resort. A citizen's and junior race is available to telemark skiers who just want to give racing a try. Visit www.ustsa.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, including the race schedule, registration and lodging information.
The top women's podium spot will be contested by Madi McKinstry, a U.S. National Telemark team member and freshman at Montana State University. McKinstry claimed bronze in the Junior World Champion Sprint Classic on Feb. 9 in France.
McKinstry will make her return to the national championships after opting to miss the 2012 series for the Junior World Cup Championships in Espot, Spain. In 2011, McKinstry was crowned the U.S. Women's National Champion in Steamboat Springs.
McKinstry will square off against the reigning 2012 national champion, Zoë Taylor of Steamboat Springs and Atlanta, Georgia.